Six Organs Of Admittance fuse psych, space rock, indie and folk in their new album “Ascent”; it’s a heady, noisy mix driven by extended guitar work outs, pulsing bass lines and locked down drums. If someone had told me this was a re-release of an album from the late ‘60s or early ‘70s I would have happily believed them. There’s a definite retro vibe about the whole thing that harks back to the days when musicians would head off on extended musical flights of fancy, accompanied by way-out light shows and fields full of spaced-out, gyrating freaks. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a very good thing indeed.
Main man Ben Chasny has been very busy over the last 14 years or so, involved with Comets On Fire, Badgerlove, Double Leopards, Current 93, Magick Markers and Rangda. The 2005 album by Six Organs Of Admitance, “School Of Flower” was a favourite of a number of critics that year. It’s no wonder then that “Ascent” is somewhat eclectic, taking elements of several styles and mixing them up in a guitar-driven, sonic adventure: lots of fuzzed-up, effects laden guitar, sometimes shredded, sometimes laced with feedback; and all held on course by a rock solid rhythm section that is rather like a canvas on which Chasny can paint his aural pictures. The songs generally take the form of extended instrumental workouts, some with ethereal, falsetto vocals, and some without. At times the work sounds like it’s been taken ready to record into the studio, while at others it has a definite improv vibe. There is a lot of letting rip on this album, a lot of tearing it up, as the music is allowed to flow until it reaches its natural destination.
There are hints of Santana in the style and the playing, in songs like ‘Close To The Sky’ which features a big guitar section and then moves through a very folky, almost eastern or Indian acoustic passage. ‘Solar Ascent’ is a mellower affair, named – like several good songs from a while back after an astral body (I’m thinking Hendrix’s ‘Third Stone From The Sun’ and Camel’s ‘Earthrise’); its evolution sees it build with extra guitars, cymbals and some subtle voices deep in the mix. Six Organs Of Admittance travel from the very noisy to the quite restrained, while all the time walking a psych/space/folk line.
‘One Thousand Birds’ uses an overdriven, almost discordant guitar that crashes through the initial vocal section in a wave of fuzz and feedback. And if you’re used to the more clinical, disciplined sound of metal just think how effectively a slightly wilder approach is used by The Melvins or Graham Coxon of Blur. Sometimes less is more, and sometimes it pays to throw absolutely everything at the song. With its pulsing bass line and reverb-heavy vocals, ‘Even If You Knew’ has a feeling that it might get out of control at any moment, as the musicians wrestle to tame the beast within the song.
“Ascent” is not, then, your typical album. There is a wild, free spirit running through it that refuses to conform to definite song structures, allowing the music – particularly the guitar – to find its head, to chart its own course. It also has that retro vibe to it which, combined with the wild improvisational nature of the songs, makes it a really rather liberating experience.